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Mickelson leads par 3 shoot out

Golf's version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? very nearly paid off -- twice -- for PGA Tour star Phil Mickelson, who came inches away from making two aces in the opening round of the Par-Three Shootout at Treetops Resort on Monday.

"I watch those television shows that offer a whole bunch of money and I think they're exciting," said Mickelson, who threw his hands in the air and grabbed his head after short-iron shots that would have paid him $1 million each. "I really thought that at least one of those two shots would fall into the hole."

The Par-3 Shootout is essentially a made-for-television skins game played on the "Threetops" par-three golf course at Treetops Resort. Mickelson, Raymond Floyd, Hale Irwin and defending champion Lee Janzen play nine holes each day, with the action airing on tape-delayed later in the evening on ESPN. Each of the holes is worth a $20,000 skin and $10,000 is given to the player closest to the pin. Any hole-in-one, no matter how many, is worth $1 million.

Shouts of "go in!" and "it's right on it!" came from the galleries who were eager to see an ace on holes that ranged from 219 to 135 yards in length. Mickelson's breathtaking near-miss shots, which earned him $10,000 each for being closest to the pin, came at the 141-yard fourth hole and at the 138-yard seventh. Mickelson, a 30-year old left-hander who has won three PGA Tour events this year, added three skins and one other closest to the pin bonus to his first-day total of $90,000, which led the pack.

"I'd like to see a hole-in-one by any of us and I believe that very soon we will see one," said Floyd, 57, who is playing in his second Par-3 Shootout and won $40,000 on Monday by being closest to the pin four times, including the first and second holes. "We are getting more familiar with the course and I think we're going to see more birdies on Tuesday."

Floyd birdied only once on Monday, but his eight-foot birdie on the seventh hole proved to be worthless when Mickelson dropped a five-footer on top of him to tie the hole. The tie was the second in a three-hole carryover that made the ninth hole worth $80,000.

Irwin, who had been shut out to that point, hit a 158-yard shot to two-feet from the hole, winning $10,000 for being closest to the hole. When Raymond Floyd lipped out a 10-foot putt, Irwin tapped in his two-footer to win the $80,000 of skins for the moment. The Par-3 shootout uses a validation format of skins, meaning that the skin winner must at least tie for the best score on the following hole to validate his skin and collect the $80,000. That means that Irwin will play the first hole on Tuesday with $80,000 at stake and a chance to tie Mickelson for the lead.

 

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